Manataka American Indian Council
By Dawn Karima on January 27, 2014
Interview by Dr. Dawn Karima, Contributing Editor
Q) You are a wonderful role model! I’m so happy for you! Congratulations!
A) Thank you very much Dr. Dawn Karima, this has truly been an adventure and would love to share some of my thoughts with you. I was born in Denver, CO. Growing up my family would travel from Denver to the Wind River Reservation and drop us off at my Uncle and Aunties house during the summers in Fort Washakie, WY.
My life started out in a large family, which eventually ended up with my parents having twelve children, six boys and six girls. My parents have been my backbone; my Mom Sharon Joy has been my inspiration through out my life. I am a recent graduate of Metropolitan State University.
I received my Bachelor in Fine arts with a concentration in drawing in June of 2013. I was also able to study art history overseas in Italy in 2012 for a semester. Recently, I was blessed with becoming a part of Larry Yazzie’s Native Pride Dancers. I also continue to work while I hold my title. My passions include working out, jingle dress dancing, creating art and giving back to the community in any way that presents itself.
Q) What is your tribal heritage and affiliation? For those who might not know a lot about your tribe, what would you want them to know about your people?
A) I am enrolled Eastern Shoshone but I am also Northern Arapaho AKA Sho-Rap. The Eastern Shoshone’s last acknowledged chief was Chief Washakie. Sacajawea is also a part of the Eastern Shoshone tribe and is buried in the Sacajawea Cemetery. The Wind River Reservation is one of the only reservations to allocate land to two separate tribes. The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes were originally enemies, now there are six tribal members from each tribe that contribute to the tribal government. We acquired the beautiful Wind River Mountain range where hunting and fishing are still practiced. Our traditions, sweats, Sundances, Powwows, are still going strong and as long as the elders continue to teach the younger generations then we will remain resilient. The tribes have multiple schools, and the Unity Youth Group reaches out to our children because it takes a community to raise a child.
Q) Culture and tradition is so important! What are some ways that you incorporate your tribal lifeways into your life?
A) I live in Denver, CO so the ways in which I practice a tribal way of life is by keeping in contact with my family and friends on the Wind River Reservation and other natives across the United States. I attend Pow-wows as often as I can, go to sweats and on a weekly basis I will practice the Healing dance also known as the jingle dress dance. Music, stories and also learning about the history of my family also contribute to my knowledge of my culture.
Q) Powwows are very important to many of our Native people, including all of us here at Powwows.com. Do you attend powwows?
What do powwows mean to you? Why do you think powwows are important?
A) I attend Powwows as much as possible despite my work schedule. I see powwows as a place of gathering, a chance to dance to the beat of the drum and also to dance for the people who cannot. Powwows are important because this is showing the evolution of tribes gathering together as one to create a celebration, despite all of the hardships that they have been faced with in the past. Powwows are a way for the younger generations to share their culture with the rest of the world.
Q) What was it like when you heard the announcement that you won? Has your life changed since then? If so, how?
A) I heard the second attendant’s name, Meka Abby. Which was no surprise because she is blessed with smarts along with beauty and was attending school as a biochemistry student. Soon after the first attendant’s name was called, Shelby Williams. Her confidence in front of the crowd was astounding. As we were on stage, she was keeping the crowd entertained by doing the robot, waiting for the judges to give their votes, while Aysha Sam and I were standing next to one another laughing. We looked at each other, talking without moving our mouths…
Me: “I wonder who is going to win?!”(Saying the names of the other contestants.) Aysha: “I have no idea!”
The results were in. The crowd silenced. The announcer began with where I was from. I looked around stage, surprised and not really believing what I was hearing. No one else was from Denver, CO, which only meant that I was the 2013-2014 Miss Native American USA!! I was panicked because I did not prepare a Thank you speech. I squeaked through the thank you speech and my life has been blessed and changed with this title that I uphold with great responsibility.
Q) What are some of the experiences that you are having as a titleholder? We’d enjoy hearing some of your stories!!
A) As a titleholder, I have been given a lot of amazing opportunities to grow as a young woman. I was able to travel to Moldova, Europe with Larry Yazzie and the Native pride dancers. I was able to share and represent a little bit of who we are as a Native people as I danced. I also learned about their culture and ways of life overseas. I am currently in an art show in Denver called “Cross Currents” amongst other well known Native American artists Nicholas Galanin, Wendy Red Star, Frank Buffalo Hyde, Merritt Johnson, Will Wilson and Cannupahanska.
I have traveled back to The Wind River Reservation to give motivational speeches to the youth. Soon, I will have a solo art show opening in Wyoming. I will be presenting my art to schools that will take field trips to my show. The show will also be open to the public for three months after the opening. Keeping in mind there are plenty of other events that I will be attending, I still have seven months to represent the Native Community to the best of my ability.
Q) What are some of the issues you are promoting during your reign? What is your platform? How are you raising awareness for it throughout your reign?
A) Some of the issues that I am promoting during my reign are a healthy lifestyle and also alcohol awareness. I am raising alcohol awareness through my art, which is not a direct attack on alcohol. However, it focuses more on healing and becoming a healthy individual to lead as an example to the next generation. I promote health by being healthy, and communicating with other Natives that feel the same about having a balanced life. I am personally focusing on the Native Paleo way of life that Anthony Thosh Collins introduced to me. Native Paleo are foods that are indigenous foods to the Americas, looking to decolonize our taste buds and eventually our lives as Natives. Native Paleo not only focuses on diet, but also spirituality, emotional awareness and of course physical activity.
Q) Once you complete your reign, what are you hoping to do next?
A) I am planning on going back to school at CU Boulder to attain my Masters in Education, Equity and Cultural Diversity. Eventually, I want to be a professor of Native American Studies. On the other hand, I also know how life and plans change. So, this is my plan and if my life takes a different direction, then I will be satisfied in whatever my life leads to next.
Q) What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? What piece of advice are you glad that you DID NOT follow?
A) The best advice that I have ever received was from my Mom, “Sarah, all you can do is your best. You may hear negative feed back, and also positive feedback but at the end of it all, you know you did your best.” For powwowing, the best advice that I received was from Kendall Old Elk was “Let the drum beat carry you.”
Q) Do you see yourself as a role model to other Native Americans? How does that make you feel? What do you hope others learn from your example?
A) I do see myself as a role model for other Native American people because of the title and it is a big responsibility to represent for Natives across the United States. I am humbled knowing that I was given this blessing. I feel like my life should be a reflection of blessings, laughter and positive aspects. I hope that others learn that family, healthy and prayers should be some of the main things carrying them through the trials of life that we all face.
Q) What advice would you give someone just starting out in pageants and/or powwows? What do you wish you knew before you started?
A) This was my first pageant that I participated in. I would say, fake it until you make it, smile, hold your head high keep your back straight and make the crowd love you by adding some comical aspects. I started powwow dancing only a few years ago, and as Kendall Old Elk told me “Let the drum beat carry you.” It is never to late to start to do what is in your heart.
Dr. Dawn Karima has reigned as Miss Native American Worldwide, Miss Native American Achievement, Miss North Carolina Achievement and Ms. American Indian Beauty.
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